Exactly two years ago Citrix announced the acquisition of XenSource, officially entering the server virtualization (with XenServer) and desktop virtualization (with XenDesktop) markets, in direct competition with the former partner VMware.
Citrix invested $500 million in this operation but spent the minimum possible effort to spread the word about its existence in the hardware virtualization universe.
Of course the relevance of XenSource in the open source world, the implications on the Xen project and the price paid for the startup, engaged the community for a while, but beyond that the company did almost nothing to change its image of terminal services / application delivery company into something different, that could attract a large number of competitors’ customers.
It is safe to say that for the first 18 months after the acquisition, the Citrix marketing didn’t take any major step in reposition the company as a real player in a market that was completely new before the arrival of XenSource folks.
So it doesn’t surprise much that most customers didn’t perceive (and still do not) XenServer as a serious alternative to VMware ESX.
Still now, the only major tool that the company uses to evangelize XenServer and its efforts in the server and desktop virtualization space is the voice of the well-known Simon Crosby, founder and former CTO of XenSource and now CTO of the Virtualization & Management division at Citrix.
But his voice is just a whisper compared to the massive marketing effort that VMware puts in place every quarter and the tireless activity of its ubiquitous community.
Without the Virtual Reality Check benchmarks (Feb 09) and Burton Group’s report on XenServer maturity (July 09), life would be even too easy for competitors.
Something is changing anyway.
Citrix probably decided that competing on the server virtualization market with VMware is a useless waste of energy as the hypervisor may become a commodity that customers prefer to find inside their operating systems, and so gave away XenServer for free. And it’s getting aggressive on the desktop virtualization space.
For the first time since the acquisition Citrix openly and directly address competition against VMware, and does that very aggressively.
On the corporate website a comparison matrix titled Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View: Which Is the Best VDI Solution? is a public declaration of war:
On the blogs and webinar, Citrix even calls allies like NetApp (which is the biggest competitor of the VMware parent company EMC) when talking about Storage Best Practices for High Definition VDI and says:
FAQ: What differentiates the Citrix + Netapp VDI solution from the one from VMware?
Answer: As outlined in the detailed competitive comparison on our website, the Citrix + Netapp VDI solution differs from the one from VMware in four key areas:
1. User Experience: Citrix’s HDX Technologies optimizes the user experience by leveraging integrated client/endpoint-, server-, or network side technologies to allow users an optimal high definition user experience to a broad range of applications – streaming media, Flash, audio, 3D graphics, etc – over both the Local Area Network and the Wide Area Network. This is in stark contrast to VMware View, which will work for LAN use cases, but not for the WAN.
2. Application Management: The Citrix + Netapp VDI solution includes integrated XenApp, Citrix’s proven application virtualization solution, which works with 1000’s of Windows applications, in either a Hosted or Streamed mode. VMware View integrates with VMware’s ThinApp application virtualization technology. However, the VMware View solution requires bundling all delivered applications into the VM, which makes application delivery much more cumbersome and difficult to manage.
3. Flexibility: The Citrix + Netapp VDI solution offers IT organizations the flexibility to use a variety of VM Infrastructure – Microsoft’s Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer, or VMware ESX. By contrast, VMware View ties an IT organization to only VMware ESX. This gives the customers the flexibility to choose the most powerful cost-effective best-of-breed VDI solution.
4. Policy-based access control: The Citrix + Netapp VDI solution leverages a familiar Microsoft and/or Citrix management user interface for managing granular – by user groups or individuals – access to data and applications.
The point is not if the statements above are true or not (plenty of virtualization.info readers will rush to clarify this, for sure). The point is that Citrix may have finally decided what to do with XenSource technologies and it’s moving to execute the plan.
If true customers now at least have a more concrete understanding of the strategy to make their decision.